Most of the Cubans imprisoned during the Black Spring are still in jail, subjected to beatings, inadequate medical care, and long separations from their family.
These prisoners of conscience live in daily torment. And so do hundreds of others. Yet most of the world says nothing. This is a sad and curious pattern. Last fall, dozens of young Cubans who wore bracelets imprinted with one word, "cambio," or change, were arrested by Cuban police because of their political beliefs. Yet in the face of this assault on the freedom of expression, much of the world was silent.
Last December, Cuban authorities stormed into a Catholic church, tear-gassed parishioners, and dragged 18 worshipers out. A Catholic official called the episode, "the worst attack against a church in 45 years." And yet in the face of this assault on religious freedom, much of the world was silent.
And last weekend, Cubans were pushed and shoved and beaten as they distributed copies of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. That same week, Cuba signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The international community applauded Cuba for signing a piece of paper -- but on the abuses that same week, much of the world was silent.
A small band of brave nations; countries such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia have placed themselves at the forefront for the fight for human freedom in Cuba. They recently lived through communist tyranny. They remember what life is like under the boot of the oppressor. They know the daily hardships that ordinary citizens have to endure just to survive. And they refuse to look away.
Unfortunately, the list of countries supporting the Cuban people is far too short -- and the democracies absent from that list are far too notable. When a new day finally dawns for Cubans, they will remember the few brave nations that stood with them, and the many that did not.
A few weeks ago reports of the supposed retirement of Cuba's dictator initially led many to believe that the time had finally come for the United States to change our policy on Cuba and improve our relations with the regime. That sentiment is exactly backward. To improve relations, what needs to change is not the United States; what needs to change is Cuba. Cuba's government must begin a process as peaceful democratic change. They must release all political prisoners. They must have respect for human rights in word and deed, and pave the way for free and fair elections.
So far, all Cuba has done is replace one dictator with another. And its former ruler is still influencing events from behind the scenes. This is the same system, the same faces, and the same policies that led Cuba to its miseries in the first place.
I know, I know, I' ve said all this before, ad nauseum. But that's what is like when nobody listens. You are forced to give the same speech. Over and Over.
Well, that actually wasn't me or another Cuban, although it could very well have been.
That was the President of the United States. By some strange coincidence I happened to be by a TV set tuned into Fox, who carried the speech live.
When I was listening to it, and mind you, I'm not Dubya's biggest fan, my first impression was that it sounded as if had been written by an exile who has felt the tyranny in the flesh.
Mr. Bush's words were as emotive and heartfelt as any that anyone of us exiles could have written. Loud words.
The biggest difference is that he has the power to put some action behind those loud words. We can't.
You know what they say about actions.